Land Bank meeting re Draft Interim Management Plan for Lopez Channel Preserve

From Tim Clark, Lopez Preserve Steward:

The Land Bank will be meeting on Friday, March 16th from 8:30 to 11:00 am, at the Mullis Center, 589 Nash Street in Friday Harbor. The DRAFT interim management plan for Lopez Channel will be considered then at a public hearing during the proposed Amended Acquisition and Expenditure Plan. The link to the page with the interim management plan is http://sjclandbank.org/minutes/ . You can find it listed on that page, or it is included on the Amended A&E Plan. In the future, you can check on management plans by going to ‘About’ on the upper tab, then clicking on ‘Commissioners’, which will get you to ‘Agendas’. Interim management plans are not always listed, but this one is. Another way to find the interim plan is under ‘About’, then ‘Financial Information’. Management plans are always approved within a budget, which is why they are found under the finances.

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Draft Interim Management Plan for Lopez Channel Preserve

The Land Bank has released the draft Interim Management Plan for the Lopez Channel Preserve as part of the Proposed Amended 2018 Expenditure and Acquisition Plan. The plan was initially set to be considered at the February 16th meeting, but due to the omission of the plan from the meeting agenda the public hearing has been moved to the next Commission meeting:

Date: Friday, March 16th, 8:30 a.m.
Location: Mullis Center, 589 Nash Street, Friday Harbor

Download the Proposed Amended 2018 Expenditure and Acquisition Plan here.

 

Land Bank approves Clure purchase

At the April 21 Land Bank meeting on Lopez Island, the Land Bank Board voted to approve the purchase of the Clure properties. All members voted to approve except for Jim Skoog, who recused himself.

We have not given up! The Land Bank has approved this project despite failing to resolve the following issues:

  • Access: The Land Bank is claiming that they can access the property over Meadow Lane, but government agencies cannot legally convert a private road to public use without going through a formal eminent domain process; the Land Bank board has stated they do not intend to follow this process.
  • Lopez Airport: The FAA has informed the Port of Lopez that their federal funding is in jeopardy if an access is granted through the airport Runway Protection Zone. The Land Bank board has dismissed all concerns about this threat to the Port of Lopez.
  • Trespassing: In response to concerns by residents, the Land Bank has offered only vague assurances that signs will be erected to prevent visitors from trespassing on the private portion of the beach. However, evidence from other public areas shows that signage by itself does not prevent trespassing.
  • Fire and emergency services: The proposed preserve is inaccessible from land for firefighting or other emergencies. The Land Bank has not proposed any ideas for how fire or other emergencies will be handled on this remote beach.
  • In short, the Land Bank has been unable to address ANY of the concerns that citizens have about possible impacts of this proposal on the neighborhood or the environment, choosing instead to endlessly repeat that “it will all be worked out in the management plan.” We feel the Land Bank board is abrogating its responsibility to the citizens and taxpayers of San Juan County to approve such a complex, divisive project based on misinformation, baseless supposition, and vague promises.

The purchase must still be approved by the County Council before it goes ahead. We do not have a date yet for when the Council will vote on this issue, so there is still time to write to the Council and voice your opposition:

San Juan County Council

Bill Watson: bill.watson630@gmail.com
District 1
Phone: 360-370-7473

Rick Hughes: Rickh@sanjuanco.com
District 2
Phone: 360-298-5103

Jamie Stephens: jamies@sanjuanco.com
District 3
Phone: 360-378-2898

Mailing Address:
350 Court Street, No. 1
Friday Harbor, WA 98250
Telephone:
360-378-2898

Land Bank votes to extend feasibility period…again

The action item on the Friday’s Land Bank Agenda was whether to the extend the Feasibility Period to give the Clures more time to obtain an easement for public access off Shark Reef Road, or drop the proposed purchase.

We presented the results of our visit with the FAA and our review of the Port FAA Grants, made several oral presentations, and delivered several letters from our group opposing the Purchase.

Regrettably, the Land Bank took our new information under advisement, said the easement issue was between the Port and the Clures, and voted to extend the feasibility period to its April 21 Meeting on Lopez.

We will do everything we can to resolve this issue favorably, but please plan now to make the April 21st Lopez Land Bank meeting.

Letter from Kate Scott to Port of Lopez

Port Commissioners:
Steve Adams
Dan Post
Kenn Aufderhar

Dear Commissioners,

I am writing to ask you to please deny public access to the Clure property across Port land.

An email received from the Trails folk has stated that  “a few neighbors have mounted a strong opposition to the Preserve, with some valid concerns and several alternative facts and plenty of $.”

I would like to point out that we are more than “a few neighbors” who are opposing this  purchase.  There are at least 38 of us whose property abuts the beach in question – and only one of them approves of opening this pristine beach to the public.  The Trails folks’ email shows a lovely photograph of the long unspoiled beach  and says it “affords miles of beach available for the public to walk on.”   In truth, the photo shows almost all private  property.  The  rocky tide flats in the bottom part of the picture are where the public could legally walk, and even then only when the tide is out.   And what exactly is “plenty of $” insinuating?  That we are all rich landowners and we just don’t want to share?  What exactly was “plenty of $”  spent on? Looks to me like alternative facts  they refer to did not come from our side.

I  purchased my land (with its two falling down shacks) on  Channel Road in 1989, and it was still relatively inexpensive. I am not even remotely wealthy.  Most of the property owners I know personally along this beach have owned their properties since the 70s and before. All of us that live along this two mile stretch of beach care immensely that this beach stay the wild and unspoiled beach that it is; not because of some NIMBY attitude as implied,  but because we understand that it’s the very inaccessibility that keeps it that way and is what has kept us good stewards of it.

This beach is home to all manner of wild animals who call it home. Deer swim across the channel.  Mamma seals  bring their babies ashore to wait patiently while they fish, sometimes there at the foot of Meadow Lane, and also points much further north. Otters roam freely  up and down the beach as well as the banks.  Many, many different bird species nest and make their living here, including  families of eagles that have nested here since the  50s. Again, it’s the very inaccessibility that keeps this beach wild and unspoiled.

The Trails group seem to have dialed back their “last wild and unspoiled beach on Lopez” description in this latest email.  Now they just say it’s a nice place for the public to walk; and  “this nice place would be visited by a few more of us (the public which does include outsiders).”   That sounds like a vast understatement to me, given the number of people that visit nearby Shark Reef County Park every summer.   I  can only assume they have realized that hordes of people on the beach in the summer would mean it wouldn’t stay very wild and pristine for very long, and so are now describing it as “nice.”    How can it possibly “preserve the wildness” of this beach by opening it up to  lots and lots of people and their no doubt numerous dogs?  It is a contradiction in terms to say that.   Plus what interpretation  of “wild”  includes  beach signs cluttering up the landscape?

While they tout that it’s “a great benefit to our community as a space for walking and access to sit along the shoreline,” we already have numerous public beaches on the west side on which to do those things.  One can even play in the surf and enjoy sunsets from these other beaches.

They also say people walking the beach would have “…no intent to neither trespass on private lands nor harm neighbors.”  When in fact, intent is  completely separate from actuality.  Even our Lopez County Commissioner’s wife, whose land abuts a public access beach in the village, testified that people paid no attention to the posted “private property” signs and walked right by them all the time.

Lastly, the email states that “Fire and EMS access here is easier than at several other public lands and parks on Lopez.”  This can only be referring to access  through Meadow Lane, the only spot along the whole two mile stretch of beach where fire and EMS could even get near a beach.  There is absolutely no access of any sort for that type of equipment on any of the rest of the properties. All but the Clure properties are high bank, with no access anywhere near the banks.  The Lopez Fire Chief has advised that the chance of a major fire greatly increases with public access. He also said  Lopez fire equipment and EMS vans can’t navigate the Clure beach access; so the best firefighters can do is walk in with 5-10 gallon water back-packs. He further said “early detection by homeowners is key” because if a fire catches hold on the dry grasses of the bluff, there is little they can do to contain it.

For these many reasons,  I ask you respectfully to please not grant access to the Clure property over Port land.

Thank you very much,

Kat Scott
Lopez Island

Port votes not to approve easement to Clure property

About twenty of our supporters attended last night’s Port of Lopez meeting. The Port commission thoughtfully moved the venue to Woodmen Hall to accommodate the large crowd, and allowed over an hour of testimony on the Clure access issue.

The attorney for the Clures, Michael Murray, spoke and threatened a lawsuit on very vague grounds and then claimed the Clures “own” an easement to Shark Reef Road from Meadow Lane—which caused quite a bit of confusion as this alleged easement has never appeared in any prior surveys. The Port voted to deny an easement to the Clure property at this time, and will consult with their attorneys and surveyors again to make sure they have the correct surveys and legal analysis before making a final decision.

The Port will also conduct further research on FAA restrictions in the airport safety zones, which cover both Meadow and Eagles Roost Lanes.

Response to Journal article from Noel McKeehan

This letter is in response to the article “Protecting natural places” in the Journal of the San Juans.

——

Comment: From a recent San Juan Journal article:

“This proposal leads to the question: how do we balance tourism, land rights and conservation?”

My reaction is:

Maybe the “question” should precede the “proposal” not the reverse; a debate of the question, if the outcome were that there is some problem with the current “balance” that revelation might drive a “proposal”. And perhaps it would not be the unsolicited proposal currently on the table.

Or:

“Although private landowners can operate with conservation values, we do not believe that private landowners are necessarily the best stewards of fragile places.”

I am forced to reply:

That’s an assertion that bears some sort of proof.

“We believe in the Land Bank’s mission, and feel it is an ideal protector of natural spaces. Landowners are not subject to the same scrutiny and are also vulnerable to make mistakes.”

There you go again…

You can assert and believe and feel what you want, but assertions are not proof and beliefs are not facts and feelings are just that.

Still more:

“We wonder if a compromise …”

That is a call to action with no case made; only an idiot would want to compromise his property rights and associated property values to a “gee it would really be nice if pigs could fly” proposal.
Or, I can’t help hearing “so, Mr Chamberlain…”

And finally:

“We hope the property owners and the Land Bank can reach an agreement that is satisfactory to all . If the general public does not have access to places of wonder and beauty, they will have less motivation to save these places…”

Who asked them to “save these places? If one reads some of the letters from property owners documenting the beach unfriendly habits and practices of the trespassers, one shudders at the thought of what ‘saving these places’ might entail. ”

—Noel McKeehan

Comment on the January 18th Weekly article

(Due to the very short comment limit of the Weekly website, I am posting this here and linking to it from the original article: Clash about tides and land use)

“Living on an island doesn’t always mean you have access to a beach.”

This statement very misleading, as it implies that Lopezians don’t have ANY access to the beach. Lopez Island probably has the most public beach access of any island in the County: we are already blessed with over a dozen developed shoreline access parks and preserves. On the west side of Lopez, Shark Reef is a scarce mile south of the Clure property, and about a mile and a half north lies Otis Perkins Park and the Fisherman Bay Spit Preserves. Then we have Odlin Park and Spencer Spit, Watmough and Agate… the claim that “kids don’t have anywhere to go to the beach” is just plain false!

The Land Bank contends that signs will keep the beach walkers from trespassing on private land, but it’s clearly impossible to mark the boundary line between the public tidelands and private beach: high tides would soon sweep away any boundary markers that were placed on the beach.

The Land Bank also claims that by not having signs to the Preserve that it will not be much used. However, it’s naive to assume that word won’t quickly get out about this beach. Shark Reef County Park is the most heavily used public shoreline access on Lopez Island, and the Clure properties are a mile away, right off of Shark Reef Road. Every visitor who rides or drives to Shark Reef County Park will go right by this property.

Mr. Bormann continues to repeat the assertion that the process leading up to the Clure proposal has been “publicly discussed.” However, the Agendas for the Land Bank meeting did not name the Clure property until November. A few select members of the Trails group knew about this proposal (as they brought it to the Land Bank) but at no time did the Land Bank contact ANY of the adjacent landowners. Unless someone had prior knowledge of this proposal, it is highly unlikely they would know to look at the minutes of past meetings to find some reference to the “Clure shoreline,” if one even knew what that was. The Land Bank may have satisfied the absolutely minimum legal requirement for “public” notice, but at no time did they engage in a good-faith effort to notify and include the neighbors who will be most affected by this proposal.

There are 37 parcels of land that abut the public tidelands of this area. On the Save Lopez Shoreline website we have the names of 58 residents–neighbors, scientists, and others–who are opposed to this acquisition. This article says Trail Network claims to have “400 names” but at the meeting a member of the group said 300. No one outside of the trails group has seen this list of supporters, so we have no idea how many there really are.

Lopez is a very generous community, but we are all starting to see the strain on our fragile shoreline environments due to the many thousands of visitors that come to the island in the high summer season. Watmough Bay and Iceberg are both very heavily used areas, with 18,000 visitors to Watmough & 14,000 to Iceberg last year alone (and we know the bulk of those visits are in July & August). The Land Bank can claim that they “think” the number of visitors will be low, but there is no evidence to support that claim, and much evidence to suggest that many thousands of visitors will come to this beach once word gets out.

This article also fails to mention that the beach is a shoreline Critical Area, with extensive eelgrass and kelp tidelands, as well as breeding and nesting habitat for  birds and otters. Shark Reef Rocks are a National Wildlife Refuge and a critical haulout area for harbor seals, who also use the nearby beach for “parking” young pups. This proposal would allow people to approach well within the 200 yard no-go zone that is mandated for the National Wildlife Refuge rocks. It is quite possible that this acquisition will be in violation of the Shoreline Master Program guidelines for critical areas–however, the Land Bank has not done any research as to the possible conflicts between environmental protection and public access that this proposal will engender.

In short, this proposal opens an ecologically sensitive beach to the impacts of a massive increase in use by people and their dogs. The Land Bank and Trails Group have been marketing this as access to a “nearly pristine” beach, yet common sense tells us that thousands of additional human visits will quickly jeopardize the very qualities that make this beach what it is. Neighbors, scientists, and concerned citizens urge the Land Bank to withdraw this proposal.

–Adrienne Adams, Lopez Island